Hey, guys. Welcome to the Rahman Law Firm's fireside chat. Today we're going to talk about some of the common fears that may be holding you back when deciding whether or not you should file your VAWA application. I would like to first allow our attorneys to introduce themselves.
Hi. I am Christi Leveille. I am a senior attorney here at the firm. I have been practicing immigration law for over ten years. Hi. I am Megan Pierre. I am the supervising attorney here at the Law Firm of Moumita Rahman. I have been an attorney for 12 years, and I am really happy to be here.
So today, one of the top questions that people have when they're concerned about whether or not they should file for VAWA is, will getting divorced in my VAWA case affect me in getting an approval? So let's talk about that for a second. What do you guys think? Do you think that getting divorced might affect a client when they're filing for VAWA?
No, because they consider during your marriage whether the intent of a good faith marriage, what happened during the marriage to make you eligible for VAWA. That is what they look to as opposed to what happens after.
However, please keep in mind that if you do get divorced before filing for VAWA, you do have two years to submit that application. If more than two years go by since your divorce, you will not be able to submit a VAWA application.
Absolutely. That's completely right. Because here's the thing that I tell clients all the time. Whether you decide to stay married or get divorced, that is completely your decision. I have seen a lot of lawyers tell clients, "No, don't get divorced at all while you're doing VAWA" or they tell you to get divorced right away. And I say, "why? This is your life. This is your case." When you're filing for VAWA, all that we need is either for you to be married at the time that you file for VAWA. Or, if you got divorced, as Megan said, your divorce can't be older than two years old, then you are eligible to file for VAWA.
So whether you decide to stay married or get divorced, that is completely in your control. Divorce is a very, very stressful thing. And to be told by your attorneys that you have to stay married when you're in an untenable, stressful and abusive situation is probably one of the worst things that you can say to people. Also, to tell people that they must get divorced is also another thing that is going to be adding more stress upon stress. And we don't want that for our clients and we don't want that for you.
Now let's talk about another really, really important thing, and that is about annulments. We get this topic a lot at our office. Clients will call us and say, "Attorneys, my spouse has filed for an annulment. What should I do?" What has your experience been when talking to clients about their annulments? Let's start with you Megan.
So one thing to keep in mind is if your marriage is annulled, legally, it'll have the same effect as if it had never happened. So when that comes up in a VAWA situation that can become a problem. Our best advice to you is that if your spouse is seeking an annulment, then you hire a family law attorney to assist you in fighting that annulment.
Absolutely. You don't want to hurt your case by essentially negating your case by getting an annulment. So you want to seek a divorce attorney as soon as possible, as soon as that topic comes up so that you do not hurt your eligibility for VAWA. We are not divorce or family law attorneys. We are only working with immigration.
So you will have to seek somebody in your case and you must fight that annulment because as mentioned, if your marriage gets annulled, then legally it basically eliminates your eligibility for VAWA.
Now, here's one more thing that I have seen. I have seen people find out that they got divorced, but they never even knew that their spouse served them with divorce papers. What has been your experience when dealing with this?
Again, seek a divorce attorney because you want to reverse that. If there's any way possible to say this was fraudulently attained, and so I want to reverse this so that it does not affect your eligibility for VAWA once again.
Yeah, absolutely. If you find out that you were divorced more than two years ago and you were not aware of this, by all means, seek the assistance of a family law attorney. Typically you do have a right to be notified. So there are options. There are remedies available to you if this is your case.
Absolutely. And I think that to me, it's actually a sign of abuse. If you are separated from your spouse and they have now taken revenge on you by filing for divorce and they fail to properly notify you of this divorce action, you get divorce in court and you never even know about it. Legally speaking, your spouse has to notify you of the divorce and you need to have that time to respond in court to fight that divorce in the way that protects you the best.
So if your spouse gets divorced from you behind your back and you find out later and that two year period has passed now making it more difficult to file for VAWA, you can actually go back to the family court and ask for them to vacate that judgment so that you can reopen it and fight it and thus, put yourself back on that solid legal grounds that you can file for VAWA.
So that's what I recommend.
But there is actually another little bit of a alternative that we can look at, which is called the T visa. In cases where your marriage may no longer be valid, it may have been annulled, but you may have gone through some abusive situations in your relationship. So let's talk a little bit about that, because that is also very important for the public to know.
So the T visa is a kind of immigration relief available to people who have been victims of trafficking. It is not a very well known visa, so a lot of our clients who have approached us did not know they were eligible for such relief. And the T visa, the way that it can really help clients who have suffered abuse in their relationship but are no longer eligible for VAWA is the fact that instead of looking to see if there's a qualifying marriage, we look and see what the spouse made you, the client do.
For example, did your spouse expect you to cook for them? Serve them day and night, keep the house clean at all hours? What were the types of labor that your spouse forced you to do? And maybe they forced you to do all these things through the use of fear, through the use of domestic violence, to the use of force.
Maybe they also forced you to have relations with them and if you didn't have relations with them, it would cause you to be in harm's way. These are some of the ways that we might be able to make sure that every possible solution is explored on your behalf.
Now, another really common situation that happens with our clients is when they get a green card with their spouse and everything has kind of gone well and they get their two year green card and then it comes time to file for something called the removal of conditions. And then at that point, you may have an issue with your spouse. Maybe they no longer want to assist you with removing those conditions.
There are still options for you, including if there was any sort of extreme cruelty and battery similar to VAWA some of the same things that would make you eligible for that we could use in an I-751. The law also contemplates you getting divorced after you obtain your conditional permanent residency card. So if a time comes after those two years for you to petition to remove your conditions and you have gotten a divorce, we can also assist you with that. There are remedies available to you.
So I know that one of the things that you may be doing since getting your green card is just holding on, you may have been holding on and holding on in your marriage no matter what you're going through, because you're afraid that if now that you've got your two year residency card, you have to hold on even longer so that you don't lose your card and that you don't lose your right to file for citizenship.
But I do want you to understand that you do have this right available to file for a waiver, especially if you have suffered in your marriage. So even if you got your green card already with your spouse and it's a two year conditional green card, you don't always have to get them to help you to file. You do have the ability to file by yourself. And if you do end up getting divorced, you can also file for a divorce waiver. So the bottom line is that there are solutions out there.
Now, what happens if I am past those 90 days that I have to file? Oh, Megan, I thought you'd never ask! Here's the good news. When it comes to waivers, when you're filing for the waiver for a divorce or for extreme cruelty, it doesn't matter when your card expired.
You literally have no deadline. You can file the day you get your card. You can file ten years after you get your card. But beware that once the deadline passes, you might get noticed through immigration court. So you don't want to just let it lie in the sand again. You don't want to have bury your head in the sand syndrome.
You want to deal with your problems as soon as you recognize that you do have a problem. That's why we're out here talking about these things that not a lot of lawyers talk about, because sometimes the common solution of a lot of lawyers is, "oh, just stay together and just stay together for the sake of your marriage and getting your green card."
Well, that is not tenable for me. I don't believe in that. I don't believe that people should have to suffer indignities and disrespect and abuse in order to keep their immigration status.
So, guys, thank you so much for joining us for our attorneys fireside chat at the Law Firm of Moumita Rahman. We hope you enjoyed this. We hope you found this informative, and we hope to be back again soon to do this with you in the future.
And if you need our legal assistance, remember, we work with immigration clients all over the country. It does not matter to us where you live. We work with you and we work to make it easy for you to get the immigration protection that you need. So call our office at 212-248-7907. We hope to hear from you today.